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Game Thread: Lonzo Ball’s return from hip injury a timely one ahead of Pelicans-Wizards matchup

Needing a three-point booster shot and having another defender go up against Beal and Westbrook should dramatically increase the odds of victory

Washington Wizards v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

Lonzo Ball informed the media in this morning’s shootaround that he would return to action tonight when the New Orleans Pelicans face the Wizards in Washington D.C.

As for why he missed four games due to left hip flexor soreness, Ball believes he was overcompensating for injury in the three games he played upon returning from a right hip flexor strain.

“I think when I strained the first one, I felt it in the game, “ Ball said. “It was on defense in Portland the first time I strained it. I think the other one just tightened up because I was compensating when I came back. But I feel good now. There’s no problem moving forward.”

Ball’s return is a timely one. In the last game against the Knicks, the Pelicans knocked down only 6 of 28 three-pointers. New York scored 33 more points from the long range than New Orleans — a deciding factor in the 116-106 defeat.

The Pelicans have really struggled over the last four games shooting 24.7% from deep, and in fact, when their best three-point bomber (38.4 3PT% on 8.1 attempts per game) is off the court, the Pelicans are shooting 33.7% from three-point range. That figure sits at 36.3% in Ball’s 1300 minutes on the court.

Less than three percentage points may not seem significant, but that’s the difference between New Orleans hitting 3s at a league-worst clip (Rockets @ 33.7 3PT% — 30th on the season) vs. hovering in the middle of the pack of the NBA (Bulls rank 15th @ 36.9 3PT%, Pacers rank 16th @ 36.1 3PT%).

Lonzo Ball is extremely important to the success of the Pelicans, and he’ll be a vital weapon against the Wizards on both sides of the floor.

Although Washington is languishing in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, they’ve won five straight games when Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook have been in the lineup.

If you may recall, a Westbrook-less Wizards team closed a 26-point gap to just eight with 5:59 left in the fourth quarter; however, the Pelicans held on to win 124-106 in late January.

The key to tonight’s contest may be as simple as can Eric Bledsoe and Ball (and probably Naji Marshall) do a better job on Westbrook and Beal than Deni Avdija and Rui Hachimura can do on Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.

It’s hard to overlook that Z and B.I. have been on a tear of late.

And this duo’s production has been translating in the standings.

New Orleans is slight favorites according to oddsmakers in their matchup versus Washington, but having Lonzo Ball back is a boon in my eyes. If he’s healthy, the Pelicans should find a way to get back into the win column.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (25-30) at Washington Wizards (21-33)

When: April 16, 6:00 p.m. Central

Where to watch: Bally Sports NOLA

Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.